Sunday, March 22, 2009

La Belle Vie

Visited on Saturday, March 14th

Outside La Belle Vie

Notes from Erin:
We have been planning to go to La Belle Vie, which is widely regarded to be the best restaurant in the Twin Cities, when I finished my masters program since last fall. I really couldn't think of another occasion when I would be able to justify the cost of the Chef's Tasting Menu, so I warned Ben far in advance that LBV was where I wanted to celebrate my graduation. It took a little warming up for him to agree to it, and it also helped that we got a gift card from my parents for Christmas to put toward this dinner. The atmosphere is subdued and we were among the youngest diners there. It took a little while for me to feel comfortable there, but after a few minutes it was fine. Everyone there treated us wonderfully from the moment we walked in the door. We had "the old guy" (as he referred to himself) as our server who was definitely a character. One of the other people waiting on us commented that they weren't sure he even knew where he was right now, and I think they might be right ;) It made for some good entertainment during our dining experience! Right away we each got a plate of 3 types of bread and some gougères - all were warm and delicious. This review is going to be formatted slightly differently than most, with us writing our thoughts under the heading of each course instead of doing them totally separately. It will sound repetitive for sure, because everything was absolutely wonderful! I wouldn't expect anything less from La Belle Vie, and they definitely delivered on their superb reputation. As with most super nice places, I was worried about being disappointed, but thankfully I was not :) This was the most expensive dinner we've ever had, and it was definitely worth it.



Notes from Ben: In the weeks leading up to our dinner at La Belle Vie, I wasn't getting too excited for the meal because I had images of bizarre French food in my mind. I don't care for exotic meals just for the sake of exotic meals, I want something that tastes good and goes well with the other items on the menu, even if the ingredients are "normal". After glancing at a recent tasting menu I was happy to see that there was a good mix of "normal" food prepared in ways that I had not had before. I was especially pleased with how much meat was on the menu and I began to get more excited to go. I agree with Erin that I was a little uncomfortable when we first sat down, but it didn't take long to relax (the huge martini helped). We knew coming in that we were going to have the Chef's Tasting menu, so we got started right away. Erin had the wine flight to go along with the meal, not being a big wine drinker I opted not to get the flight which turned out to be a great idea, since there was no way Erin was going to drink all the wine she was served. As for the food, it was all wonderful. There was not a single thing I could complain about in regards to the food, it was awesome.


Lamb Tartar with roasted red pepper sauce
(amuse bouche)

First Course: Lobster and Salsify Soup with Périgord Truffle
Wine: Lustau, Amontillado, Escuadrilla, Jerez, Spain

Lobster and Salsify Soup with Truffles


Erin: This was my favorite course! Kind of sad that it all went downhill from here, but it didn't go down too far, so it was just fine :) Every bite of this was like an explosion of wonderful in my mouth. There were so many different flavors in this soup, and each one was amazing! It was creamy but not overpowering, and the little chunks of lobster were delicious. LOVED this! I was not as big of a fan of the sherry, but then again, I'm not a sherry fan to begin with. It did taste better once it was paired with the soup than it did on it's own.

Ben: The soup was excellent, I love creamy soups. This was a great way to start the meal, I just wish they would give you a little more :)

Second Course: Spice Crusted Skate with Rock Shrimp and Slow-Braised Artichoke
Wine: Ruinart, Blanc de Blancs, Reims, Champagne, France NV

Skate with Shrimp and Roasted Artichokes


Erin: Probably my second favorite course - closely tied with the soup. It was kind of comical for both Ben and I with these first two courses - both of us kept saying "mmmmmmm" and "oh, wow, this is SO good" after every single bite :) The artichokes in this made every other artichoke I have ever had seem horrible - they were just so much more flavorful than the canned/frozen variety that is usually present in most artichoke dishes. Obviously. The champagne was a great pairing with this dish. Unfortunately, I'm finding it hard to remember specific details about how it tasted, but suffice it to say that it was yummy :)

Ben: Yeah, I was beginning to feel a little silly at this point, as we both kept saying how good everything was, but IT WAS. The artichokes were so much better than others that I've had, it was fantastic.

Third Course:
Chestnut Tagliatelle alla Carbonara with Quail Egg and Black Truffle
Wine: Livio Felluga, Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy 2007

Tagliatelle with Poached Quail Egg

Pinot Grigio

Erin: I loved the addition of the egg in this course. I'm not sure how one is "supposed" to eat this, but I ended up just breaking the egg and mixing it in with everything else. It added a richness to an already rich pasta dish that really put it over the top, but in a good way :) The Pinot Grigio was cool and refreshing and paired well. By this point, I was pretty much stuffed and already tipsy, and a little concerned with how I was going to make it to the end! I did share each of my wines with Ben too - I personally would have been unable to walk if I had drank the whole wine flight myself, but I'm a lightweight.

Ben: I also thought the egg was a unique addition to the pasta, and definitely made it better. The pasta was excellent and done just right.

Fourth Course: Roasted Poussin with Foie Gras, Salsify and Dried Cherry Gastrique
Wine: Archery Summit, Pinot Noir, Premiere Cuvee, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2006

Chicken and Foie Gras

Pinot Noir

Erin: There were a few comments on this photo on flickr debating whether or not this was poussin or chicken. It tasted like chicken to me, but clearly my palate would not be able to tell the difference. It tasted like really GOOD chicken, but... chicken nonetheless. I enjoyed this course - it was again very rich with the foie gras. The salsify did offer a slight break from the richness. I loved this wine most of all - definitely my favorite! This wine flight did prove to me that there is indeed a noticeable difference between the cheap wine I usually drink and the good stuff. I'll try to forget that difference most of the time, so as to not go broke :)

Ben: This was my second favorite course after the veal (coming next). I liked the mix of the foie gras and chicken, and the salsify was really good. I had never heard of salsify before this meal and this was the second course that used it. I have no idea if the salsify that we had is the same as the one on the wikipedia page for it, but it didn't look like that at all :)

Fifth Course: Pan Roasted Veal Tenderloin with Stone-Ground White Polenta, Wild Mushrooms and Pearl Onions
Wine: Domaine Tempier, Bandol, Provence, France 2006

Veal and cheek

Barolo (?)
Erin: As previously mentioned, I was beyond full by this point. I did like this course a lot, but couldn't fully appreciate it due to the pain that was taking over my stomach! I loved the polenta and pearl onions, but the veal was too much for me at this point - I gave half of mine to Ben, who was all too happy to finish it for me! The wine was described as a "big red" and it certainly was - it was a very heavy wine. It worked well with the veal.

Ben: My number one course. While Erin was getting full, I was still charging forward. The courses were small enough and timed apart well enough so that I didn't ever feel really full. I certainly wasn't hungry by this point, but I had room left. This veal was fantastic, the mix of mushrooms and onions were a great complement.

Sixth Course: Gorgonzola Dolce with Asian Pear and Candied Pine Nuts
Wine: Inama, Vulcaia Apres, Veneto, 2003


Sauvingnon Blanc
Erin: Finally, some relief! I was glad to be getting to the end of the courses, and glad that this course was a little lighter. The cheese was rich and creamy and was excellent with the pear and nuts. The wine was sweet and delicious. Loved this course.

Ben: Eh, the cheese tasted ok, but the creamy consistency didn't do it for me. I liked the nuts and the pear with the cheese, it made for a unique taste that I wouldn't have thought to combine.

Seventh Course: Mango with Mint, Lemon and Mandarin Sorbet

Mango with lime and sorbet
Erin: This course was a welcome palate cleanser and was refreshing, but to me, there was nothing notable about it except how comical the tiny portion looked on the huge plate it was served on :)

Ben: Biggest plate for the smallest course, done intentionally I'm sure :) This barely counts as a course in my book, it was a spoonful of sorbet with cubed mango. The plate did not lend itself to getting the small pieces of mango onto your spoon.

Eigth Course:
Dark Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta and Cava Sherbet
Wine: Toro-Albala, Montilla-Moriles, Pedro Ximenez, Adalucia, Spain 2005

Panna Cotta, Chocolate Cake, Sherbet

Erin: After nearly 3 hours, we reached the end of the road :) This dessert was delicious - I especially loved the cake and the panna cotta - I would have liked MUCH more panna cotta, even though I was stuffed! I'm not a port fan, so the wine was kind of lost on me. I still managed to drink it though! After the dessert, the waiter brought out some more little treats, which I thought were overkill since we had eaten so much already. He also told us he was bringing it because we were "special" but since we saw him bring it to every other table it kind of ruined that sentiment :)

Ben: This was an excellent dessert. The cake was awesome, my favorite for sure. The extra treats he brought out were nice, but like Erin said, totally overkill. Now, if he had brought some more of that soup out.................

Little Treats

Final Thoughts:
Erin: La Belle Vie was hands down the best meal I've had in a restaurant. I would love to go back and eat at the lounge - the vibe seemed to be more fitting for us in there than in the dining room, but the dining room was a wonderful place to celebrate finishing my masters degree!

Ben: One of the best meals I've ever had, a great place to go for a quiet meal. I especially liked that they did not squeeze the tables in close together, you get enough space for some privacy even though they could fit more tables if they wanted too, it was a nice touch. I would also like to go to the lounge, it looks like a cool place to hang out and the bartender is highly regarded in the Twin Cities.

Inside La Belle Vie

La Belle Vie
510 Groveland Ave